The latest scientific evidence on the benefits of moderate beer consumption was presented to members of the European Parliament, the press and the public at the 2nd Beer & Health Symposium in Brussels 18 October 2001. In her opening speech Mrs Marianne Thyssen, Member of the European Parliament, stressed the importance of moderation as the condition of the positive contribution of beer to a healthy lifestyle.
Some old news
The first record of brewing is to be found in the Sumerian civilisation in Mesopotamia about 6,000 years ago. In his review of the history of beer and its medicinal properties Antonio Gasbarrini, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Rome, outlined how the consumption of beer had increased health and longevity in ancient civilisations because of the vitamins and calories it contained. Many medical books contain references to beers properties as a diuretic, laxative and sedative drink. In agreement with Dr. Mack Mitchell, President of the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, professor Gasbarrini found strong evidence from observational studies that all alcoholic drinks are linked with lower risk of CHD (coronary heart disease). Thus a substantial portion of the benefit is due to the alcohol content of the drink. Here are some of the known mechanisms of effects of alcohol on risk of CHD:
- Alcohol increases serum level of HDL - the beneficial cholesterol.
- Alcohol decreases serum fibrinogen and increases serum TPA, thus thinning the blood.
- Alcohol decreases platelet adhesion making the blood less sticky.
- Low dose alcohol consumption protects the heart from future ischemia/reperfusion injury.
The same protective effects of alcohol are supposed to bring about the decrease in risk of ischemic stroke in moderate drinkers. The mechanisms, however, of the finding of a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes in moderate drinkers in several large population studies remain uncertain. An improvement of the moderate drinkers sensitivity to insulin seems to be the most likely explanation.